Playing Tag for Fun and Profit

Photopreneur examines the current limitations of image-tagging for professional photographers who use social networking and even microstock sites. An excerpt:

It sounds like a minor detail, something to worry about for a minute or two after the photo has been taken and is about to be uploaded. But if you want the photo to be seen — and in particular, if you want it to be sold — then picking the right tags is crucial. After all, it doesn’t matter how good a picture looks; if a buyer cant find it, you’re not going to sell it.

There’s a real lack of good advice here. Worse, there’s a lack of hard evidence that particular tags are more effective than others. When iStockPhoto adds new tag options to its site, for example, it just provides its photographers with a list. It doesn’t explain which terms are most in demand or which of two tags with similar meanings is the most popular. Flickr does supply a cloud of the most popular tags but it’s noticeable that the biggest words are terms like “party” and “wedding” rather than “surfing” or “oceanography.” They’re the sort of tags that friends and relatives are going to use, not commercial buyers…

For commercial viewers … tags will need to include general terms such as “beach” as well as specific words such as “pebble” or “dune” to help the searcher focus. They’d also need to contain a good mix of seasonal words such as “Christmas” and “summer” as well as terms that are sought year-round, such as “fir” and “sunbathing.”

With professional photographers increasingly moving to these new channels, we expect new approaches and technologies (Polar Rose is one interesting example) will emerge to make sites like Flickr less frustrating for commercial buyers and sellers.

But as John Chapnick points out, the necessary improvements could be quite an undertaking for current photo-sharing sites:

Flickr is built for uploading and showing, not for searching and finding. Its search box is limited, its tags unhelpful and communities are no replacement for categories.

Flickr might be hoping to grow into a stock site one day, but unless it reinvents itself and creates a new categorization system, I’d be surprised to see many stock buyers rushing to it.

[tags]tags, Flickr, iStockPhoto[/tags]

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